Is it safe to travel if you have cancer?
There is no definitive answer to this and you can only really decide if travel is safe on a case-by-case basis. It depends very much on the type of cancer you have, what sort of treatment you are undergoing, the state of your health, where you are planning to go and what you are planning to do.
These are conversations every cancer patient must have with their doctor before they start planning a trip abroad. But just to give an idea of some of the issues involved, if you have leukaemia, for example, or any other type of cancer where chemotherapy is commonly used as a frontline treatment, then one of the side effects will be that you have a weakened immune system.
That makes travelling anywhere where there is a heightened risk of infections such as hepatitis, typhoid, malaria and so on potentially very dangerous, especially as patients undergoing chemotherapy can often not be given suitable vaccinations either. So, in these circumstances, your doctor is likely to advise you against travelling to more exotic, tropical destinations, and stick places closer to home.
In terms of activity levels, again, if your condition and treatments are taking a toll on you physically, then it is probably not advisable to plan a strenuous hiking holiday or a busy tour schedule with lots of sightseeing. On the other hand, taking the example of leukaemia again, patients are advised to take regular exercise to avoid the risk of blood clots, so sitting on the beach all day long might not be the best for you either!
What sort of precautions should I take?
The key to travelling safely if you have cancer is preparation, and that starts with the conversations you have with your doctor. Medication is a crucial area to focus on, as you will need to make sure you take what you need with you. It is also advisable to do some research to check whether the medications you are on are controlled substances in the country you are planning to visit, otherwise you run the risk of them being confiscated on entry. Taking a letter from your doctor explaining what the medications are and why you need them is always a good idea to avoid similar issues.
A weakened metabolism and immune system resulting from cancer symptoms and treatments doesn’t leave you more prone to picking up infections. You may well find you tire easily, become dehydrated in warm weather more quickly and even become more sensitive to sunlight. It is therefore again important to plan schedules that are not overly strenuous, striking a balance between activities you want to do and plenty of rest time. Forget about a suntan – go for the SF50 sunblock and plenty of it to stay on the safe side, and make sure you drink plenty of water if you are heading somewhere hot.
Will I be able to get travel insurance?
There are lots of stories out there about cancer patients being refused travel insurance. The fact of the matter is that insurance companies base their business around assessing risk, and the biggest risk to a travel insurer provider is a customer making a claim for medical treatment they need while abroad. As a cancer patient, the likelihood of you needing medical care if you travel is many times greater than someone who doesn’t have cancer, so a lot of insurers simply decline to offer cover.
But that’s not to say every provider will refuse you, and there are a growing number of specialist providers who, actually focus their attention on customers who might struggle to get cover elsewhere. By assessing individual circumstances – like we said above, there is no straightforward answer to the risks involved when travelling with cancer, you have to treat every situation as unique, and that applies to insurance providers, too.
But our belief is, when cancer patients are physically well enough to travel and have been told as much by their doctor, it shouldn’t be for insurance providers to then put obstacles in the way. That’s why we strive to find a policy solution for everyone, geared towards their needs. View specialised travel insurance here.